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Watering requirements for straw bales

Terrebonne, OR

hi-we live a hot and dry climate - once the bales have been seasoned and planted-
Any thoughts on the best watering system for straw bales? Lazer drilled hoses versus the black spongy soaker hose? We have well water. I wondered if others have had problems with the lazer drilled hoses clogging?

I started seasoning my bales- Day 1-3 lots of water. Days 4-5 blood meal watered in. Today is day 6. I can't feel any heat in the bales. How long does it usually take until I can feel the heat ?

Wake Forest, NC

What's the temps been like up your way?

What type of bales?

To get those bales "cooking" you need moisture, some food (nitrogen) and some heat to get those decomposing microbes stirred up.

This message was edited Apr 27, 2009 11:14 AM

Terrebonne, OR

Daytime: 50-60's
Nighttime: 30-40

Wake Forest, NC

I think that's the problem....the outside temps.

Daytime temps are low to really get any "cooking" started and those nighttime temps are a real problem.

Save your Blood Meal and just keep the bales moist until your weather warms up enough to get those internal bale temps up.

Depending on how many bales you have, you could wrap them in some black plastic to help draw in some heat. That would help insulate them at night, too.

Terrebonne, OR

Central Oregon weather is variable. We will have a couple of 60-70 degree days and then it will snow.

Terrebonne, OR

I'll hold off on cooking the bales for now and move on to setting up my watering system. We have hot and dry summers-(80-90). I'm trying to setup a hands free watering system, on a timer. Once the bails are established and the plants are growing, will they require more water than veggies grown in a traditional garden? I'm trying to decide which diameter of soaker hose to go with.


Wake Forest, NC

I can't help you with the soaker hoses and timers. Never used them, although if I keep adding to my gardening, I'll need to consider that.

Ideally, set your volume so that it gives the bales just enough water to start trickling out the bottoms.

Hopefully, others who have used timers and soakers will add their thoughts.

Terrebonne, OR

I have read that bale gardening takes more water than traditional gardening. I also read that it takes less water than traditional gardening because of the composting/mulching. Which is correct?

Do you water the outsides of your bales , or just the tops?

Wake Forest, NC

Once you get those bales soaked good at the beginning, it should only take about 1 gallon to 1.5 gallons to water each bale and you can get the water directly where you need it, around the plants.

I use my watering wand for about 10 seconds per bale - give or take a second or two.

Until the bales really start decomposing and softening up it's probably good to water each day since the young plants don't have a good root system.

It may seem like more watering than a traditional garden, but it takes a lot of water to saturate a dirt garden unless you have soaker hoses going down each row, which most people don't.

They generally use sprinklers which are very inefficient since you end up soaking the whole garden including the middle of the rows, and them may only get moisture down in the ground just an inch or two.

I don't water the sides of the bales, just from the top.

Terrebonne, OR

I want to plant my cool weather crops. Earlier in the thread you recommended that I hold off on the blood meal until the temps warm up enough. What temp should I resume feeding the bales?


Wake Forest, NC

You've got me on the cool weather crops. I have no history with them.

I'm just wondering that if you plant them now that the bales may start "cooking" a little and damage you plants.

I slow-cooked my bales this year. I did have one bale in my cucumber row that spiked up in temps after I planted and I lost 3 of the 4 plants in that bale. Not sure what went on there.

Let's see if anyone else has any recommendations.

Terrebonne, OR

It would be nice to hear from the folks in Alaska or Montana .

Terrebonne, OR

What range of outside temperatures do they typically start to heat up?

I'm growing wheat now.
Neighbors are starting to wonder.

Thanks again

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Hey, that is the fun of it. Letting the neighbors wonder. Once you get a real nice crop of veggies (I hope you are going to plant some tomatoes) growing they will be jealous. Don't forget to support anything like tomatoes.

I am in Northeast Washington so am probably colder than you. I just started mine, only this year I am trying hay. I don't know whereTerrebonne, Oregone is. Are you east, west, or central Oregon?


Terrebonne, OR

We are in Central Oregon.

Terrebonne, OR

Jnette, what are your ambient day/night time temps? Have you had any problems getting your bales to start cooking? And are you using blood meal or ammonium?

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

green, I answered your dmail.


Terrebonne, OR

The suns out, and the bales are 10 degrees warmer inside-70 degrees.

Bardstown, KY(Zone 6a)

Kent I'll let you know on the cool weather crops. I just planted two cabbage plants in bales a couple of days ago between all the rainy days we've been having.


Wake Forest, NC


Wake Forest, NC

I had another gardener object to "all the watering he'd have to do" with a bale garden.

I decided to do some math about watering my garden vs a traditional dirt garden.

I have 60 bales and have been watering them about 5 out of seven days with about 1 gallon/bale, so that puts me around 300 gallons at the max.

My garden is roughly 50 x 50.

If I watered a traditional garden with a sprinkler the equivalent of 1 inch of rain, it would take about 1,558 gallons.

I doubt most folks use soakers with a large garden, especially since they'd have to move them when cultivating and weeding.

You just need to water a little more in the beginning until the bales really start softening up and retaining more moisture.

Does anyone have another view on this?

(Bev) Wytheville, VA(Zone 6a)

We cannot use the county supplied water for gardening and use rainwater, so it is at a premium until we can create more rainwater storage. We wrapped a 12" strip of black plastic around our bales last evening with the hopes of conserving moisture, holding them together better, and helping to raise the temps. I may be fooling myself though.


Thumbnail by Sundownr
Wake Forest, NC

Bev: I think the plastic will definitely help with moisture retention and keeping the heat in, which is great during early planting when temps are still relatively low in your area, especially at night.

Doug's experiment with bales IN an enclosure seems to validate that idea.

(Bev) Wytheville, VA(Zone 6a)

Good, I'll see if I can find his thread to read for myself.

Bend, OR(Zone 5a)

Green_green.. I feel your pain.

These 28 degree night stink.


Canyon Lake, TX(Zone 8b)

"We cannot use the county supplied water for gardening and use rainwater"

Have you considered diverting and using your gray water for outdoor watering needs?


(Bev) Wytheville, VA(Zone 6a)

The county does not restrict our water use. The water has too much of something in it that upsets my stomach and weakens the plants. I think it killed my new grass sprouts and some veggies last year, too. If I still had well water I would definitely consider the use of gray water! Thanks for the suggestion though.


Terrebonne, OR

2 questions re watering requirements (arid climate).

Do I need to water the veggies with the "normal" amount of water that I would use for a traditional raised bed garden, or do I need to increase the water to keep the bales wetter? I'm new at bale gardening, and new at veggie gardening. Seems like I want to put more water on the bales to keep them wet, but it seems like this is too much water for the veggies.

I'm setting up an automatic watering system to help water if I'm not around. I'm installing 1/4 inch soaker hose, connected to 1/2 inch mainline plastic hose, which is connected to thea pressure reduce that reduces the well water pressure from 60 to 25 .
Here's the problem: The 1/4 inch soaker hose is unpredictable. There seems to be a lot of water coming out of the first foot of soaker hose and less water thereafter. It doesnt matter how long the run is- the first foot does a better job of watering.

Wake Forest, NC

green: by the way, it would be great to have a name. Makes it a little more personal, but that's your call.

Think of the bales as a sponge. It's only going to hold so much moisture before it starts running out.

I give my bales about 10-15 seconds worth and that's it. The water will trickle on down.

A good way to check is to tilt one of the bales over and see how wet it is under the bales.

This message was edited May 20, 2009 9:35 PM

Terrebonne, OR

I just re-read Kents comments above: " Once you get those bales soaked good at the beginning, it should only take about 1 gallon to 1.5 gallons to water each bale and you can get the water directly where you need it, around the plants."

Kent- doesnt the rest of the bale dry up? Since you are concentrating the water on the plant-the remainder of the bale dries out. Is this okay?

Maybe I'll do away with the soaker hose and use the button waterers that deliver a fixed volume of water on each plant, instead of trying to keep the entire bale wet.

What are other folks doing, the folks who are using automated systems?Thoughts?


Wake Forest, NC

GG: when I say "getting the water directly where you need it", I mean all on the WHOLE bale instead of a traditional sprinkler that has to send water over the entire garden area including the middle of the rows which is a waste.

This message was edited May 20, 2009 9:44 PM

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